The Invocation Beginning In God’s Name

 

By Robert M. Zagore

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HoIy Spirit.”

The first l5 words of the Divine Service – the lnvocation- embrace everything we need to know about the rest of the service. Magnificent promises and life-changing joy await the Christian who understands the Invocation.  

God’s invitation to you

At the beginning of the Divine Service, the Pastor says the Invocation while facing the congregation to show he’s acting as God’s representative. It’s as if God is saying through him’ “I called you here in fulfillment of My ancient promise and mandate. You have been baptized in My name and I adopted you as My children. You have learned of My commandments and My salvation, and I made you My disciples. You have been brought here under My authority and by My promise. in Baptism I made you heirs of the promises and gifts I long to give to you during the next hour. These gifts will be yours forever and will bear fruit every day of your life. You are My people. I am your God.” The people respond by saying, “Yes, that is why we are here, and that is who we are.” Of course, they’ll likely use the Hebrew synonym: “Amen.” The Invocation tells us the reason we’re in church. We do not gather in church to feel a force, to study, to learn morality or learn about ourselves. We gather to worship the Trinity whose name is “Father, Son and Holy Spirit-” When we do that, everything else follows.  

God’s names tell us who He is

In the Bible, names aren’t just words, they’re descriptions. Through His names’ God reveals what He’s really like. Because every revelation has a purpose, He connects a promise to every name. Genesis provides a vivid example of this name-promise connection. Abram and his wife Sarai seemed too old to have children. Nevertheless, God promised a child to Abram. He even implied the promised Savior would be Abram’s physical descendant. With time, Abram lost hope. But the Lord let Abram know He intended to keep that promise. God said, “I am El-Shaddai [God Almighty], I will confirm My testament to you and I will greatly increase your numbers” (Gen. l7: l-2). By calling Himself El-Shaddai, God promised Abram that He was able to do what seemed impossible to men. in His name, God promised that He is almighty and that He would use this Power to bless Abram and his children forever. Unlike our promises, God’s name promises are eternal; they always endure the test of time. But how do we get them? The Bible says God “puts His name on” His people. When Moses was leading Israel through the desert, the Lord commanded him, “Tell [the priests] this is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them, ‘The Lord bless you and keep You; the Lord make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.’ So they will put my name on the Israelites’ and I will bless them” (Num’ 6: 22-27). The Lord gives a three-fold benediction that places His name and blessing on His people. God has several names in Scripture; names in which He reveals Himself to us. He is “The Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23);”The Lord my banner of salvation” (Elc. 17:5); “The Lord who heals you” (Ex- 15:26); “The Lord our Peace” (Judges 6:2). He is “Jesus,” which means’ Yahweh saves, “because He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

These names tell about God; the narrate the story of our salvation.

When we read the Bible, we see that God lays out those promise-filled names like tiles in a great mosaic. If we stand back we can see the self-portrait of our God.

The great name of our Salvation

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives the name that epitomizes all the names that came before. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore’ go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” In His name, the church goes out baptizing and teaching. The Lord graciously comes and says, “I am your God. You are My people. My name is your guarantee of My love and salvation.” With the name comes all the benefits of the risen Savior’s work He applies His waterborne name and He numbers us among those “who have the [Son’s] name and the Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Rev. 14:I). Thereby we are lifted up and share His fellowship, “for [He] lifted [His] name and [His] word above all things” (Ps. 138: 2). This, and more, God gives to us in the first 15 words of the worship service. We learn more of what it means as we hear and study His Word. We continue to learn after the service concludes and we go to our homes and our work. He is present there also, because His name clings to His baptized, forgiven disciples. He is found where His name is found. “surely I am with You always, to the very end o[ the age.”

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use. Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited

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“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”

 

Receiving God’s Forgiveness:  Confession And Absolution

 

Why go to church, if not to hear Christ’s word of forgiveness?

By Richard J Sawyer.

  “Pastor, if I need forgiveness, I don’t have to come to you do I? Can’t I just confess my sins to Jesus?” What an intriguing question! If the idea of coming to the pastor for forgiveness seems such a burden, then what brings people to God’s House on Sunday mornings in the first place? All the pastor does is baptize, preach the Gospel, administer the Supper, and…Pronounce the absolution. If folks aren’t coming for Christ’s forgiveness, why are they coming? Our Lutheran liturgy does a fantastic job of proclaiming why it is we gather every week: “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities-…”  To which the pastor says: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

We have what it takes

We gather because we have what it takes to be a Christian. We have sins!  Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, after all, but sinners.  So to begin our Service with confession is to say that we are the ones that Jesus died to save.  As St. John puts it: “lf we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9, Lutheran Worship, p. l58, and our Lutheran Service Book page151 and 167). We come, then, confessing what is true of us: we have sins.  Jesus comes declaring what is true of Him: “I forgive those sins.”  That is what He first said at our baptism, and He has been saying it ever since.  He has been saying it because He put His living voice into the mouths of His disciples, telling them, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23).

Luther’s contribution

For Martin Luther, the most important part of confession was not what comes out of the mouths of sinners, but what goes into their ears: the absolution.  And for the sake of that absolution, that living voice of Christ’s forgiveness spoken through His servants, Luther urged that Christians cherish and “make use of the healing medicine,” explaining, “When I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian” (large Catechism, ‘A Brief Exhortation to Confession”). Luther knew confession and absolution primarily in the individual or private sense. In his time, Christians made a general confession of their sins in worship, but the absolution we are so familiar with was heard only in private.  Because of this, where the catechism speaks about confession, it is speaking of private or individual confession’

Because we need to hear it

So why should Christians today hear the absolution?  Because it is Christ’s joy to speak and the Christian’s joy to hear!  And because, quite honestly, we need to-not because we suddenly are not forgiven if we don’t, but because it’s just so easy to forget what Jesus says we are! In Holy Absolution, Jesus tells us we are His and He is ours, that neither Satan, death nor sin can have us.  He did that in Holy Baptism. He does that in His preaching every week.  He does that in the Supper.  And if that were not enough, He goes on speaking His forgiveness in His Holy Absolution.  He will even speak it to us privately and maybe lay a hand upon our heads-a hand that’s real, a voice that sets the words of Jesus ringing in our ears. Just so we can be sure.

ln our ears and on our lips

Our Lutheran Confessions tell us: “It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse” (Augsburg Confession XI.1, BOC, p.34). It is a great treasure that we hear Christ’s absolution in the Service every week. But such a treasure should not spoil us on the blessing Jesus has for us in private absolution. It would be a tragedy to believe that Christ’s forgiveness spoken generally and publicly is not for hearing privately as well.  There is a place for hearing a general Gospel: “God so loved the world.” But what a joy that Jesus didn’t speak that kind of Gospel from His cross, but told the thief beside Him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43 NIV emphasis added). As we learn to hear Christ’s voice from someone like our pastor, we learn that Jesus puts His Words into our ears that they might be upon our lips as well. We too have words to speak to another – “I forgive you”-because they have been spoken first to us.  We have gathered to hear what Jesus loves to say.  And having heard, we now have something to say to one another. So, what about the Christian who asks, “Can’t I just confess my sins to Jesus?” Sure we can, and that is what we do each time we make confession during each day, at the altar or in the prayer our Savior taught us. But why would we not want to hear the words that Jesus loves to say? “I forgive you all your sins.”

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited  

 

 

 

 

 

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“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”

 

‘O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?’

 

An Entrance Hymn, Introit, or psalm near the beginning of the service provides an age-old vehicle for meeting God in worship.

 

By David P Held

  The opening line of an Advent hymn asks, “O Lord, How Shall I I Meet You . . . ?” This question brings to mind the reason God’s People-gathered for worship-sing an Entrance Hymn, an Introit or a Psalm early in the Divine Service. God speaks to us through His Word, of course, and we speak to Him in prayer. But another of the ways we speak to God and to one another in worship is by singing together.  Hymns and psalms provide us with an age-old vehicle for meeting God. After being prepared through the lnvocation (perhaps preceded by an optional “hymn of invocation’) and by the Confession and Absolution, the community of believers is ready to enter that part of the liturgy known as the “Service of the Word.” At this point, Lutheran Worship and Hymnal Supplement 98 provide an opportunity to sing an Entrance Hymn, the appointed Psalm of the Day or an Introit.  

Some history

Singing a hymn or a psalm at this place in the service goes back at least some 1,500 years, to the fifth century. The pope at that time, Ceiestine I, stated that as the clergy moved from the sacristy to the altar, a choir should sing an entire psalm. Later, only selected psalm verses, instead of an entire psalm, were sung. These selected psalm verses are known as the “Introit,” from a Latin word that means “entrance.” Psalm texts were used in other parts of the Mass, too: in the Gradual, which comes between the Epistle and Gospel readings; and in the Alleluia or (during certain times of the year when the Alleluia is omitted) in Scripture verses known as “tracts” that are sung after the Gradual. Martin Luther kept the Introit in his Latin revision of the Roman Mass. In his German revision, he suggested that a German hymn be sung instead. Singing a psalm or hymn adds solemnity to the entrance of the clergy as the pastor and assistants move to their appropriate places in the chancel. Singing by the entire congregation has always been a powerful and uplifting part of Lutheran worship. Luther spoke highly of music and provided a strong impetus for including hymns in worship. Not only did he himself write hymns, he also encouraged other poets and musicians to contribute to the development of a hymnody to be sung by the people.  

Hymns and psalms

Generally, the Entrance Hymn, appointed Psalm or Introit reflects the theme of the Sunday or festival. If an Entrance Hymn is the choice, there may have been preparation for it already in the Prelude, with a composition based on this hymn’s tune. By singing hymns from various time periods and ethnic backgrounds, congregations are reminded that they are part of a church from all ages and for all people, rather than just a congregation of the 20th century.

Singing the psalms

Singing hymns is nothing new for Lutherans, but to chant a psalm may be a new experience for some worshipers even though it has been a practice of the church for centuries. Already in the Old Testament, it was customary for the psalms to be sung (Ps 68:25). In the New Testament, Paul makes reference to the singing of psalms (Eph. 5: l9; Col. 3:16). Since many early Christians were Jewish, it was only natural that they continued this practice. (During the Middle Ages, Gregorian chant-it recently has had a resurgence of popularity-was the preferred musical vehicle for psalm singing). The use of chant adds the element of music to the text and slows down the presentation of the thoughts of the text. Chant also enables singers to handle the varied length of the psalm verses (different from a hymn, in which each stanza is the same length.) One form of chant uses “psalm tones,” such as those found in Lutheran Worship and Hymnal Supplement 98. These tones enable a congregation to sing the psalms with little difficulty. In addition to such methods for singing psalms, composers have written many musical settings of the psalms, involving congregations, cantors and choirs. Choral settings of the psalms abound. So do hymn paraphrases. Psalms used in worship also frequently include a refrain known as an “antiphon.” This refrain, usually drawn from a verse of the psalm, focuses on the theme of the day. The following antiphons for various days show how the Old Testament psalms can help focus our worship of Jesus Christ:   Christmas Day “The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations” (Ps. 98:2). Epiphany-“All kings will bow down to Him and All nations will serve Him” (Ps. 72:11).  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 5 1: 17). Ash Wednesday “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51: 17). Ascension “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets” (Ps. 47:5). Meeting God in worship is awe-filled yet comforting. The final thoughts of “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You’ remind us of our encounter with God in worship:

O glorious Sun, now come,

Send forth your beams so cheering,

And guide us safely home.

 

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited OCN-OI

“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”

 

The Collect

Uniting Our Hearts in Prayer

 

The Collect of the Day collects the petitions of the gathered worshipers into a succinct theme-prayer.

By John W. Fenton

  When the pastor says “Let us pray” near the beginning of the Divine Service, he is not simply announcing what will happen next. He is inviting us to unite our hearts in collective prayer. Prayer is the life of faith, and so, the life of the Christian. Prayer is how we remember the Lord who will not let us down. “Saying back to Him what He has said to us, we repeal what is most true and sure” (Lutheran Worship, p.6). Prayer is how we acknowledge our Lord’s promises and gifts in the Gospel preaching and Gospel Sacraments. Lutheran Worship reminds us, “Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.” During the service we pray many kinds of prayers; some are taken directly from Scripture. One particular prayer-form is the Collect. This is a succinct, one-sentence prayer that follows an established pattern. In our Divine Service, the Collect serves as bookends. Near the beginning of the service, the Collect for the Day is prayed after the “Hymn of Praise.” The presiding minister says the Collect of the Day immediately before the Old Testament reading. Then, near the end of the Service, the Post-Communion Collect is prayed just before the Benediction. It is not our custom for everyone to speak the Collect in unison. Yet Martin Luther urged all present to “repeat with [the pastor] the words of his [the pastor’s] prayer in their hearts to God.” Luther also urged the pastor to “say these prayers clearly and slowly so that [all] may hear and comprehend and also pray with him with one accord in their hearts.” The Collect of the Day is based on the Gospel message in the service’s Scripture readings, especially the Holy Gospel. With that Gospel message in mind, the thoughts and prayers of the faithful are collected into the Collect to implore God, by His grace, through His mercy, to manifest His love in and through our thoughts, words and deeds.  

The pattern for Prayer

Each Sunday or service the words of the Collect change, but it is always easy to understand because its pattern, or framework, does not change. Since this pattern helps you understand, it helps your faith, so that after you hear the Collect, you may say “Amen” with certainty and firmness. The pattern for all prayer is the Lord’s Prayer. It epitomizes all we could pray, forming the framework for all other prayers. To show this framework, which usually has five parts, look at the Collect of the Day for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Lutheran Worship, p. 77 ). “O almighty God, Whom to know is everlasting life, grant us without all doubt to know Your Son ]esus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life that, following in His steps, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Now, let’s look at the five Parts:

  1. On our behalf, the presiding minister addresses God, “O almighty God.”
  2. Then he repeats one of God’s promises (or one of His qualities or commands): “Whom to know is everlasting life.”
  3. Based on this promise, he asks or petitions God to “grant us without all doubt to know Your Son Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
  4. Since faith doesn’t just “sit there” but lives, the pastor then gives specific benefit to our request: “that, following in His steps, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life.”
  5. The pastor concludes our Prayer not simply “in Jesus’ name,” but “through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you [the Father] and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

By studying its framework, we see that this particular Collect is all about life! This framework is not only helpful, but it also conforms to the pattern established by the Lord’s Prayer through its use of an introduction, several petitions (requests) and conclusion. In the Lord’s Prayer, we address God (similar to Part 1 of the Collect), and we repeat the clear and certain promises of God’s holy name, His Spirit-given kingdom and His good and gracious will. Then, clinging to those promises, we beseech our Father to give us all we need to support our body and life, to forgive us our trespasses, to lead us safely through temptation and to deliver us from evil. We pray these things to remember Him who always provides for us, and to receive these gifts with godly thanksgiving. We say ‘Amen,” knowing by faith that our prayer is heard by Him who rules in His kingdom, with unmatched power, by unparalleled glory. Having prayed that prayer in their hearts with the pastor, the congregation affirms its trust in our Lord’s Gospel promises with its loud and clear “Amen.” The worshipers are now emboldened to receive that Gospel in the preaching and Sacraments, and to live a holy life in and through those promises”  

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited OCN-O7
 

“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”

 

‘This is the Word of the Lord’

The Word, who became flesh to be our Savior, comes to us now in the reading of Scripture.

By John T. Pless

  “This is the Word of the Lord,” the pastor says at the conclusion o[ each reading from Scripture. The congregation responds in thanksgiving, “Thanks be to God.” With this simple exchange between pastor and people, Scripture is confessed for what it is, the very Word of God, bearer of the Lord’s gifts of spirit and life to be embraced with thanksgiving  

A Biblical liturgy

From the Lord’s name given us in Holy Baptism (Matt. 28:19) to the words of the Benediction (Num. 6′-74-26), the liturgy is genuinely Biblical. All of the great canticles of the Divine Service (the Gloria, “This is the Feast,” the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, the Nunc Dimittis, “Thank the Lord”), the Introit, the Offertory, verses and responses and the words of institution are drawn from Scripture. Central to the Service of the Word is the reading of the Holy Scripture and preaching that is governed by these Scriptures. There is continuity between the Christian liturgy and that of the Jewish synagogue at the time of Christ. In the synagogue service, there were readings from the Torah, the prophets and the historical writings. Our Christian liturgy follows a similar pattern with readings from the Old Testament, an apostolic letter (epistle) and a Gospel. In a very real sense, the readings from the Old Testament and epistles lead to the Gospel and are brought to fulfillment in it. By including them in the Divine Service, the early church confessed the writings of the apostles and evangelists as inspired Scripture. ln our Lutheran liturgy, the first reading is generally from the Old Testament, although the three-year lectionary provides readings from the Book of Acts throughout the great fifty days of Easter. The Gradual, taken from Scripture and reflective of the theme of the day or the season of the church year, serves as a bridge between the first and second readings. The second reading is from an epistle, a letter of an apostle.  

Christ speaks to us

The first two readings function like the voice of John the Baptist, preparing us to hear in repentance and laith the living voice of our Good Shepherd, ]esus. The reading of the Holy Gospel is anticipated with the “alleluia verse” based on John 6:68. In the Lenten season’ a verse from Joel 2:13 is substituted. The Holy Gospel is the chief reading. Here Christ Himself speaks to His congregation, imparting to His people words of blessing and salvation. The Holy Gospel is rightly seen as the summit of the Service of the Word. This we recognize by surrounding the reading of our Savior’s words with acclamations of glory (“Glory to You, O Lord”) and praise (“Praise to you, O Christ”) and by standing to receive these gracious words. Scripture is read not to make us better “Bible trivia” players or merely to give us principles for Christian living or moral instruction. Scripture gives us Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our sins and raised to life for our justification” Scripture is the very Word of God, not only as “rule and norm” (to use the language of the Formula of Concord, but also as words of the Spirit, words of truth and life, that reveal Jesus to us and create saving faith in him. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ,” writes the apostle Paul (Rom. l0:17). God gave us His Scripture to be read and preached. Through the reading and proclaiming of His Scripture, God is at work creating faith, bestowing the peace of sins forgiven, strengthening His people in the struggle against sin’ and enlivening in them the hope of eternal life.  

That we might believe

The purpose of the Scripture readings in the Divine Service is concisely stated by the apostle John near the end of his Gospel narrative: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). God serves us in and through His words, the words of Holy Scripture. The reading of Scripture and its proclamation in the sermon go together. The exhortation of the apostle Paul to Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (1 Tim.4:13), is fulfilled as Scripture is read and sermons are preached in conformity with these holy texts. The gift of the Holy Scripture prompted English reformer Thomas Cranmer to write a collect that aptly summarizes the place of the reading of God’s Word in the Divine Service: “Blessed Lord, since you have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn and take them to heart that by patience and comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and Forever” (Lutheran Worship, p.156).  

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited OCN-O7
 
 
 

‘Sing and make-Music to the Lord-‘

 

‘The people of God proclaim the Word of God through music.

 

By Don Zager

 

     The Book of Psalms is filled with encouragement to sing. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth” (Ps. 96:1). “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Ps. 98:1a).

     Why do we sing? The very next verse tells us: “The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations” (Ps. 98:2). We sing in grateful response to this Good News of salvation, given to us freely by a God who wants us to live with Him eternally. We sing in order to proclaim this message of God’s redeeming love.

     When we think of the people of God joining in proclamation we naturally think of the hymns in our hymnals. Taking their cue from the Psalms, Christian poets through the ages exhort us-we who by faith have seen God’s promises fulfilled in Christ – to sing

 

Luther on singing

     Martin Luther understood that the Christian is compelled to sing. As he comments on Paul’s great resurrection chapter, I Corinthians 15, Luther writes:

“And now St. Paul appropriately concludes with a song which he sings: ‘Thank and praise be to God, who gave us such a victory!’ We can join in that song and in that way always celebrate Easter, praising and extolling God for a victory that was not won or achieved in battle by us . . . but was presented and given to us by the merry of God. . . . But we must sing of this victory in Christ.”

 

Elsewhere, Luther wrote:

“After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both words and music, namely by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music. . . -“

     For Luther, praising God with music is always connected with proclaiming the Word of God through music. We praise God by proclaiming His Word, by singing the story of His saving acts. One of his earliest hymns, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” (LSB 556), is a model of what it means for a hymn to proclaim the Word of God. Here is a hymn where the Christian congregation joins to proclaim Law and Gospel, to sing the story of God accomplishing salvation for His people.

 

Newer hymns

     Living hymn writers are doing the same thing for the church today. Pastor Stephen P. Starke (see accompanying article) has written an Easter hymn, “All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” (LSB 462), that provides us yet another means of joining Paul’s song of thanks for God’s great Easter victory. Starke very effectively incorporates Jesus’ own comparison of Himself to Jonah (Matt. 12:40):

AII the earth with joy is sounding;

Christ has risen from the dead!

He, the greater Jonah, bounding

From the grave, His three – day bed,

Wins the Prize: Death’s demise –

Songs of triumph fill the skies.

     The best hymn writers, whether from the past or the present, provide us a means to proclaim the Biblical and Confessional substance of our faith through congregational singing.

 

Hymns that ‘fit’

     Within the Divine Service, congregational hymnody relates to the Scripture lessons appointed for each Sunday (“This Is the Word of the Lord,” The Lutheran Witness, March ’00) and festival in the church year.

The Lutheran Service Book pages x – xxiii provide the Church Year’s:

Sundays and Seasons                                                  page x.

Feasts and Festivals                                                    page xi.

Occasions                                                                    page xi.

Commemorations                                                        page xii – xiii.

Lectionaries

Three Year Lectionary

Series A                                                          pages xiv – xv

Series B                                                           pages xvi – xvii.

Series C                                                           pages xviii – xix.

One Year Lectionary                                            pages xx – xxi.

Feasts and Festivals                                              pages xxii – xxiii.

Occasions                                                              page xxiii.

Dates of Easter                                                            page xxiii.

Pastors and church musicians choose hymns that relate to the lessons for the day as well as the season of the church year. The hymns chosen will provide opportunities for the congregation to join together in proclaiming the Scriptural truths read at the lectern and preached from the pulpit.

 

The Hymn of the Day

     The Hymn of the Day is the chief hymn in the Divine Service, the hymn that relates most closely to the primary theme of that day-most frequently the Gospel lesson. That Scriptural theme will be sounded first through the reading of the Gospel lesson, then proclaimed by the congregation as they sing the Hymn of the Day, and preached and applied to our lives by the pastor in his sermon.

 

Hymns connect to lessons

     No matter what the day o[ the church year, look for connections between the lessons appointed for the day and the hymns carefully chosen to complement those readings. Notice that the musicians at your church may play instrumental music based on these hymns, providing you another opportunity to direct your thoughts to the main teachings of the day.

     The hymns in the Divine Service may or may not always be our “favorites.” Perhaps the same might be said of the Scripture readings. Yet we are exhorted to encounter the “whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). Thus we may come to understand that hymn singing is the means by which the congregation adds its voice in proclaiming the specific truths encountered in God’s Word each time the people of God gather for worship.

 

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use. Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited

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Oh, Come Let Us Worship Him

‘Preach the Word’

 

The sermon is the Gospel of Christ in

present tense – the power of

Christ’s cross proclaimed

for the salvation of all.

 

By David H. Benke

 

     Every Sunday around the world, in millions of Christian pulpits, a message is proclaimed. It is called a sermon. It is designed to be the very power of God available to human hearts.

 

     Where do you stand – as a hearer – on the importance of the sermon? Where do Lutherans stand on the importance of preaching? What is the place of preaching in the liturgy? Where does the true Power of preaching lie? What is the claim of the sermon upon the soul of the hearer? And who gets to be the preacher?

 

     As we answer these questions, we will discover that the sermon is:

          • based on the power of the Word and of the Word Incarnate,
          • centered in the power of the cross, at the center of the Service of the Word,
          • revealed through the earthen vessel of the preacher,
          • the Gospel in Present tense

The power of the Word

     Let’s begin by entering God’s Word. The apostle Paul was crystal clear in his instruction to young Timothy: “Preach the Word” (l Tim.2:4). Proclaim the Gospel. Be a herald of the mighty message of God’s saving grace.

 

     That the Word of God has power is indicated in Heb.4:12, where the author describes it as “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

 

     Wow! The Word possesses a “two-edged” capacity to impact all who hear it at the most profound level of their being.

 

     That the sword has two edges means it cuts two ways. It cuts to reveal sin and death through God’s Law. And it cuts to reveal promise and life through the God’s Good News, the Gospel.

 

     The task of the preacher and the sermon is to “preach the Word” through the doubly cutting sword of Law and Gospel.

 

The power of the cross

     The preacher’s Law and Gospel task is accomplished by centering the proclamation on the Word made flesh, and on the cross of Christ. This is made plain by the example of the apostolic preaching of Paul.

 

     Paul was a man on the move, driven by God’s mission to bring the world back to Himself in Christ Jesus.

 

     Paul preached in the towns and villages of Asia Minor, in homes and down by the riverside, and at Mars Hill in Athens, the cultural capital of the world. He shared the lesson he learned in preaching when he wrote to the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (L Cor.2:2).

 

     Why did he make that determination? Why focus on that seemingly downside story – the Passion narrative?

 

     Paul was given this great insight by the Holy Spirit – the cross of Christ turns the world upside down. Power is made weakness, and conventional wisdom is made foolish through the cross of Christ. For there is revealed the incredible sacrifice of God’s only Son for us, humanity lost and bound for the dust from which we came. There is revealed the power and depth of divine love.

 

     And in the resurrection of the Crucified One, there is life and hope and promise. There is life eternal!

 

     When does it begin? Paul trumpeted, “Today! Now!” (2 Cor.6:2).

 

     It is the task of all preachers, then, to proclaim the power of the death and life of Christ. The two-edged sword of the Word can only cut to the quick through the cross and resurrection of Christ.

 

Divine treasure in earthen vessels

     The responsibility of preaching is awesome. Through the local congregation, the Church entrusts the public administration of the Office of the Keys to the pastor. That power or authority is always rooted and grounded in the cross of Christ, So every sermon is an opportunity for the pastor to proclaim the availability of forgiveness and fresh starts in Christ.

 

     The modern preacher is, as Paul describes himself (2 Cor. 4:7), an earthen vessel, a jar of clay through which a great treasure is given. The treasure of the Gospel, the privilege of proclaiming it, the joy of serving God’s people – these are the preacher’s prime vocational gifts from God.

 

The Gospel in present tense

     The distinction of Lutheran preaching lies in the radical claim that it is a “means of grace,” that the power of the Gospel itself is available and is received through the Word of God proclaimed by the preacher. In the sermon, the hearer is engaged in a living and personal encounter with the living God.

 

     Thus, among Lutherans all those levels of discourse on the Word are placed in service of the cross of Christ. As Luther said, “All sermons in Christendom must refer and point to the one and only Christ.” The cross of Christ is the central point of the history of the world.

 

     The preaching of the cross brings the very life of God to the hearts of hearers. By faith, that life of God in Christ is received now and forever. That is the Gospel in present tense. That is the power of the sermon in a Lutheran worship service!

 

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999 – Oct 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited

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